Affiliation: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Coach: Jada Pierce (2nd year).
Last year: 8-23, 5-15.
Niagara University coach Jada Pierce looked down her bench last season and saw the “Thin Purple Line.”
Injuries and departures left Pierce with just eight players. In a playoff win over Canisius, the five Niagara starters all played at least 37 minutes.
The endurance test is over for Pierce’s Eagles. Pierce brought in eight new players, six of whom are eligible right away.
And she gets a huge reinforcement: Star forward Victoria Rampado is back after missing almost the entire season to a torn labrum in her shoulder. Rampado was a second-team all-conference pick in 2014-15 after averaging 12.6 points and 6.1 rebounds a game.
“It’s a good feeling, right now,” Pierce said of the depth. “I just hope it stays that way. But I feel like the toughness factor is still going to be there for us. The kids who had to play a lot of minutes last year will be tougher for it.”
Rampado’s return alone should make Niagara a competitive squad. The Purple Eagles have had 11 straight non-winning seasons in the MAAC.
Strengths: Rampado is a 6-foot-2 red-shirt junior power forward who can score with her back to the basket or face up, making her a tough matchup for MAAC post players. The other low post player is 5-11 junior Kaylee Stroemple, who averaged 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds.
“Having Victoria back is huge,” Pierce said. “Obviously she’s the focal point of the offense. She and Kaylee both are the focal points. Everybody understands that. We’ve added talent on the wings but the ball is still going to go inside out.”
Freshman who could help right away include designated three-point shooter Morgan Baughman from Carlisle, Pa., and Brooklyn’s Jai Moore, who led the New York City public league in scoring last season, and 6-1 Icelander Dagny Davidsdottir, a face-up forward. Joining the team in late December will be forward Adila Gathers, a transfer from St. Francis (Pa.) who made first-team all-WNY for Buffalo Tapestry Charter in 2014.
Issues: Niagara hasn’t averaged fewer than 17 turnovers a game since 2009-10. The Eagles ranked last in turnovers last season. Point guard Jamie Sherburne has more help this year. She needs to reduce the giveaways. Outside shooting must be better. Returning starter Tiffany Corselli has more competition at shooting guard. How much better can Niagara’s defense get? Junior college transfer guard Carolyn Cosey is an athletic stopper.
Inside the numbers: Niagara ranked 10th out of 11 in field-goal percentage defense last year but seemed to find some answers by limiting dribble penetration down the stretch. That must carry over.
Schedule: A rugged non-conference slate includes games against St. Bona, Michigan, UB, Maryland (at home Nov. 20) and Syracuse. Expect a slow start in MAAC play but maybe a strong finish.
Outlook: The future is looking brighter. Sitting out are 5-10 forward Paige Mosley, a transfer from Clemson, and guard Diona Johnson, a transfer from Davidson. Look for a 9-11 conference record and middle-of-the-pack finish.
DATE OPPONENT TIME
Nov. 11 St. Bonaventure 5 p.m.
Nov. 13 at Michigan 3 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Buffalo 7 p.m.
Nov. 20 Maryland 12 p.m.
Nov. 23 at Cleveland State 1 p.m.
Dec. 2 Monmouth * 7 p.m.
Dec. 4 Rider * 2 p.m.
Dec. 7 Hartford 7 p.m.
Dec. 10 at Syracuse 3 p.m.
Dec. 13 at Drexel 5 p.m.
Dec. 22 at Fordham 2 p.m.
Dec. 30 at Saint Peter’s * TBA
Jan. 2 at Siena * 7 p.m.
Jan. 5 Quinnipiac * 11 a.m.
Jan. 7 Marist * 3 p.m.
Jan. 13 at Iona TBA
Jan. 15 at Manhattan * 2 p.m.
Jan. 18 Canisius * 7 p.m.
Jan. 20 Fairfield * 7 p.m.
Jan. 26 at Quinnipiac * 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 at Fairfield TBA
Feb. 2 Iona * 7 p.m.
Feb. 4 Manhattan * 3 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Canisius * TBA
Feb. 12 at Marist * TBA
Feb. 16 Siena * 7 p.m.
Feb. 18 Saint Peter’s * 3 p.m.
Feb. 24 at Rider * 7 p.m.
Feb. 26 at Monmouth * TBA
Mar. 2-6 MAAC Tournament
* MAAC games
No. Name Pos. Cl. Ht. Hometown High School
1 Carolyn Cosey G Jr. 5-5 Fort Wahington, Md. Manor College
3 Tiffany Corselli G Sr. 5-5 Yonkers Alexander Hamilton
4 Jai Moore G Fr. 5-9 Brooklyn Midwood
10 Jamie Sherburne G Jr. 5-7 Hudson, N.H. Bishop Guertin
11 Kharysma Bryant G So. 5-8 Rochester Bishop Kearney
14 Paige Mosley F Jr. 5-10 Warner Robins, Ga. Clemson University
15 Adila Gathers F So. 5-11 Buffalo Tapestry Charter
21 Maggie McIntyre G Fr. 5-0 Mantua, N.J. Gloucester Catholic
22 Victoria Rampado F Jr. 6-2 Niagara Falls, Ont. A.N. Myer
24 Morgan Baughman G Fr. 5-10 Carlisle, Pa. Cumberland Valley
25 Emily Granruth G Sr. 5-11 Marshall, Va. Wakefield School
32 Diona Johnson G So. 5-9 Rocheste Davidson College
33 Dagny Davidsdottir F Fr. 6-1 Reykjavik, Iceland The Westtown School
44 Kaylee Stroemple F Jr. 5-11 Canton, Ohio North Canton Hoover